Saturday 13 February 2016

Early to bed — Early to Rise. Work Like Hell and Advertise

This past week, I had to opportunity to attend an appearance by Ted Turner, the outspoken billionaire, at my children’s school.

The title above was his advice to an 8th grader who asked for some tips on business. While his answer brought down the house, I was struck more by his opening comments.

Before taking questions, he spoke for about 15 minutes about the three words/beliefs he lives by — honor, courage, and humility. But rather than pontificating, he quoted Shakespeare, at length, to explain what he meant by each of these principles.

While what he said appeared to go over the heads of his teenage audience, it made a considerable impression on me and, I suspect, the other adults in the room. Much of today’s society seems to ignore literature and lionize business acumen, yet here was one of richest men in the worldbuttressing his points with the classics he had memorized in high school 50 years earlier.

I often reflect on how much the emerging generations are missing because our societal shift in from education to vocation. Sure we’re producing a record number of graduates who can balance a spreadsheet or develop a business plan. But do they understand the difference between a symphony and sonata or a poem and a sonnet? I have had the opportunity to visit with hundreds of senior executives during the past two decades.

It is rare that our conversations focus on business. Most of the time, they want to discuss travel, culture, social issues or the best book we’ve each read recently. As anyone who studies leaders will tell you, the higher one rises within an organization, the less he or she uses the technical skills learned in school and the more relationships dominate everyday agendas.

These relationships are what drive the big sales contracts and expansion within any firm and those relationships revolve around the fabric of society, not its technical attributes.

With this shift in focus from a liberal arts education to vocational training for most of those currently enrolled in college, I have to wonder what the emerging generations discuss in 20 years over cocktails?

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